5 Rules To Follow After Buying Your Child A Phone This Holiday Season

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1. Keep your child’s room clean of screens:
Your child should never have any type of electronic device in his room, period. This includes televisions, computers, and handheld devices. No matter how much grief you get, remember that you are in charge. Keep those screens out of the bedroom.


2. Your child’s phone is your phone:
Although your child’s phone is a gift make it clear that it is still yours, not hers. Make rules that the new phone is to be handed to you at a certain time every night and that he or she will never be allowed to sleep with it next to her. The temptation to communicate via text and social media will be too strong, thereby creating sleep disturbances and other issues.


3. No electronics during dinner:
Make a rule that dinnertime is family time. No phones or televisions can be used during this important time, by anyone—including you. Make dinnertime sacred.


4. Limit screen time for entertainment purposes (including TV) to two hours per day:
Yes, I get it. This sounds like an impossible task, but this is what the Academy of American Pediatrics recommended for children over eight years of age before they lightened their guidelines. But I still agree with the old ones.


5. Be a role model:
This means spending less time with your beloved device when you are with your children. Turn off your device during dinner and whenever you are in the presence of your children. Our children need us to be present when we are around them, not distracted. 

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Kids are from Mars, Parents are from Venus

Kids_are_from_VenusWhy kids struggle to survive on Planet Earth and how parents are following in their path

It’s no wonder kids can’t cope in today’s world. They’re not living in it! If you were to hop in a spacecraft and land on Mars, do you think you’d be able to cope on that harsh planet? Of course not. Well, I’ve got news for you: countless kids are experiencing the same thing—from Planet Earth.

Total panic or total emptiness

Every week the problems are getting worse with kids. I know, because I see it firsthand. I’m on the front lines in the battle. As a school counselor by day and private practice therapist by night, I’m like the undercover cop that sees everything going on in a school of 1,200 students. I get to peer into their family life too, and it’s pretty scary from my view. If you were to shadow me for a few days, you’d see what I mean. I’m talking about one kid after another coming to my office in a state of total panic or total emptiness. The ones with the panic issues all have two things in common: they are good students that are pushed to excel academically, and they are addicted to their smartphones or laptops. The result—school-work procrastination and a malleable brain that is living most of its life on another planet called cyberspace, a place far from Earth.

The other types of kids, the empty ones, seem a lot like apocalyptic zombies. They stroll into my offices with very flat, monotone dispositions. They seem utterly clueless about everything that has to do with what it means to be human. And they have an excuse for every pearl of wisdom I provide them. Most of them are actually more intelligent than the over-anxious kids, but their report cards say otherwise. They find it impossible to connect the dots between working hard in school and future success. Like the over-anxious kids, their brains have also been programmed to live on planet cyberspace, far away from Earth. Their outcome? Failure and more depression.

What is really going on?

I hate to sound all doomy and gloomy, but I need to tell you the truth about what is really going on. As parents, we see only what we see – our own child’s life. We don’t see the other 1200 kids in their school and what their lives are like. Every day my colleagues ask me, “What is going on?” And I tell them the same thing I’m telling you. It’s the machines, the screens. They have become your children’s world, and the result is an inability to function on this foreign planet called Earth, much the same as you would experience if you tried to inhabit Mars. It just doesn’t work.

Parents want answers

When the school related problems surface for these kids, when their grades go down or they become school avoidant, the parents want answers and they come to the school administrators or counselors for the answers. They want to know what the school is doing wrong, and what the school is going to do to motivate their child or fix their anxiety. When I tell them that the key is in their hand – all they have to do is pull the cyber plug – they just don’t want to hear it. So instead, they bring their children to psychiatrists, pump them with drugs and come back to the school with accommodation demands, such as extra time for tests and assignments, or extensions for handing in late work. Of course it is the school’s duty to help the children, because their problems are not their fault, but why aren’t parents getting it? How are they not seeing what I’m explaining to them? What will it take for parents to finally, well, get it?

Do you have question about your technology-addicted child? Contact me anytime.

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Post-Holiday Vacation Memories

While I enjoyed some moments lounging by the pool and sipping Pina Coladas last week in the Bahamas, that wasn’t the focus of my much needed vacation. The focus was the quality time I spent with mfat fish Atlantisy family. It was about enjoying one another’s company, and creating memories that we’d forever cherish. It was about the excitement in my children’s faces as we raced around Atlantis, plunging down the water slides.  That sense of pride in my
8-year-old daughter eyes, as she stood tall with her back against the measuring chart, proving to each water-slide attendant that yes—she was indeed 48 inches tall, thank you very much!!!

I decided to share a little about my recent vacation, because I’ve always felt that it is important for us parents to remember that when we are on vacation with our children, we need to be aware of their needs, not just ours. For example, there was a boy I met on one of the water-slide lines. He was around my son’s age (11), and by himself. He told me that he was there with his father, but that his dad was relaxing by the pool. I felt bad for the kid,
because his father obviously didn’t realize that being on that slide with his son was probably more important to his son than the slide itself.  The memories that you help your children create with you in them will last a lifetime. When they are older, your kids will remember how involved you were with them. Here are some of the memories that my family and I will be talking about for years to come.

  • The massive, ugly-looking fat fish in the underground aquarium maze that we laughed about the entire trip.
  • Seeing major league baseball great, Albert Pujols, at Carmine’s restaurant. The best part was that Pujols looked right at me and did a double take. My son then looked at me and said, “Dad, you know Albert Pujols?”
  • The waffle maker at our hotel during breakfast. My kids loved it. Now I’m going to have to buy one of these things.
  • Going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide over and over again. My butt was killing me, and my kids found that to be quite humorous.
  • The unbelievable yachts in the Atlantis marina, especially the one with the basketball hoop. My son pointed that one out.
  • Teaching my daughter how to negotiate at the souvenir kiosk. She was able to get the Coca-Cola guitar for $20 instead of $25. And she felt quite proud of herself.
  • The bill at Bobby Flay’s restaurant – yikes!!!
  • My son and I flipping over in the river rapids.
  • My wife finally going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide. My kids loved it.

As parents, it is absolutely OK to unwind and pamper ourselves while on vacation, but we also have to remember to attend to the needs of everyone, not just ourselves. Go to breakfast with your kids. Take them out to dinner with you. Go on the slides with them. Ride the waves with them. Take some risks with them. If the only memories my kids had of me on our vacations were of me sitting by a pool all day with a drink in my hand, I would feel like I failed them. Instead, I feel confident that when they are older, they will remember just how involved I was in their lives.

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Parenting Children to be Leaders Instead of Followers

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Do you feel pressured to sign your children up for lots of sports and activities so that they keep pace with the other kids, even though your gut tells you it’s too much? Do you fear they won’t measure up and succeed in this competitive world? Do you allow your children to spend too much time on smartphones and video game devices because that is how kids  communicate these days, and that depriving them of this will lead to social isolation? The reality is that all of these activities and devices that we provide our children have little to do with them and everything to do with us.  Here’s why.

We want our children tofit inbecause we fear that they won’t be happy and successful. Take a deep breath for moment and really think about this. Do you really want your children to “FIT IN”, to follow the crowd? Or, do you want them to be leaders? As parents we get sucked into the fitting-in trap and we may be setting-up our children to be future followers instead of future leaders.

Here are a few tips to help you raise children that are future leaders instead of followers.

Unplug the phone: Getting smart-phones for your children is the furthest thing from “smart.” You know how addictive these things are and how dangerous that world-wide-web is. So does it make sense to place these dangerous devices in your children’s hands? I understand that all of the other parents in the community are ok with it, but does that really make it ok? Wouldn’t you rather your child do things the safe way instead of societies way? If your children are among the few that don’t have smart phones then you’re already teaching them how to march to the beat of their own drum; to lead rather than follow. Their time to have a smart phone will come, there’s no need to rush it. And remember, this fear you have of your children being left behind is your fear, not theirs.

Limit the sports: Are your kid’s schedules jam-packed? Again, do you fear that they will fall behind and not be any good, and not have a social life? Again, these are fears, not facts. Here are the facts: If your child is on the football field practicing every night until 8:00, what he’s really missing out on is what he needs the most—time with you. You are your children’s teacher and mentor, and the only way you can teach them and guide them is if you are with them.

Rated M video games/Rated R Movies: Leaders play by the rules. Why? Because the rules are the rules. If you allow your children to play games and watch movies that aren’t age appropriate, what do you think that teaches them? It teaches them that it’s ok to break the rules, which is something leaders just don’t do. If you start playing by the rules your children will too.

In a nutshell, human beings tend do move with the crowd, to go with the flow. This is similar to the flock of birds in the sky or the school of fish in the sea. We unconsciously conform to the things that others around us are doing and we don’t even realize it. This is known as the collective consciousness or social conformity. Unless you start becoming more aware of this fact and pass it on to your children, your children will start to, well, follow the crowd. Here is a great clip from an old candid camera episode that will help you understand this more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRoiTWkBHU

 

 

 

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Should you get your preschooler an ipad?

Every parent on this planet should go to www.commonsensemedia.com and sign up.  Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. They offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.  Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.

I read a post earlier today from Common Sense Media regarding ipad’s or other tablets for kids – Click here to read.  The question in the article is whether or not you should get one of these devices for your child.  I didn’t have to think too long about this one.  My answer is a resounding NO…  The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me.  They recommend  ZERO hours per day of any screen time for kids ages 0-2 and ONE hour per day of screen time for kids ages 3-5.  And you want to decide whether or not to buy your toddler an ipad?

As many of you know, I lecture extensively on the topic of technology and its affects on kids emotional intelligence, coping skills, focus and attention; how it’s delaying development, creating an epidemic of obesity and leading to a substantial increase in mental health problems.  Oh, and I can’t forget the sleep deprivation part.   I think most parents are aware of this stuff but they kind of fluff it off as being benign.  In fact, at a recent lecture I presented I asked the audience of 200 fifth and sixth grade parents to raise their hands if they thought it was a good idea to allow their child to play the video game, Call of Duty.  Not a single parent raised their hand.  Then I asked them to raise their hand if their kid owned Call of Duty.  Again, not a single hand rose.  And here’s the kicker–roughly 70 percent of the parents in the audience have bought Call of Duty for their child and allow him/her to play it.  Am I missing something here?

The fact is, the majority of people in this world go with the tide, including parents.  They see what it is that everyone around them is doing and they make it ok in their mind.   Yet somewhere inside they know it is not ok.  It’s an adult peer pressure of sorts. This “going with the flow” mentality is known as the selective or social consciousness.  We simply make most of our decisions not from sound morals and values but from what we see others around us doing.  So in other words, the majority of parents out there are followers and guess what their children are becoming will be by the time they get to high school.  Guess what all followers have in common that leaders don’t? That’s right, they do what everyone else is doing. And that is just downright dangerous when you’re a teenager.

So no, your pre-school child should not have an ipad.  And no, none of your children, no matter what their age should ever be allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant and spend the entire time buried in a smartphone, ipad or similar device.  And no, your child should never have any type of screen in his/her bedroom and should never have one of these devices in his/her hand when sitting in the back seat of your car. I see this everywhere I go and it is driving me nuts.  Aside from the mental health issues and other issues I addressed earlier, all of this “virtual reality” is destroying “real world” families.  The question I have for you is this – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Come to my next lecture in Hohokus, NJ on 2/5/15 to learn more or visit my website at http://tomkersting.com/speaking/.

 

 

 

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Fox & Friends Segment 11/1/14

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Fox & Friends – Saturday 11/01/14  

This is an appearance I did on Fox & Friends as part or their expert parenting panel, which I appear on regularly.  Today’s topics include:

1. A school accidentally vaccinates the wrong child with the flu vaccination

2. A new movement by parents encouraging their children to call them by their first name.

Parent Panel discussion

 

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Fox & Friends Segment I did on 8/4

FoxBelow is a link to a segment I did on Fox & Friends with regards to the over-stimulation of technology that kids are getting.  Remember, this Fall I will be lecturing to parents about parenting in the age of technology.  It’s a great, interactive discussion.  Please tell your local school reps.  For more information send me an email and I will send you a flyer – tom@tomkersting.com

http://video.foxnews.com/v/3711526237001/crack-for-toddlers-kids-entranced-by-toy-review-videos/#sp=show-clips

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Brand new lecture about parenting in the age of technology overload

Hello everyone,

This Fall I will be providing an important new lecture to school parent groups called:

IT’S TIME TO TALK: Parenting in the age of technology

This will be a unique and interactive discussion with parents.  Parents will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss the following:

  • The connection between technology use and mental health
  • How much screen time is too much
  • The link between ADHD and Tech overload
  • Strategies to help your child lower his/her anxiety
  • How much sleep is acceptable for your overscheduled child
  • Creating leaders not followers
  • Your role as a parent

………… And much more!!

 

I am getting more calls than ever from parents with children suffering from anxiety, depression and behavioral issues.  What parents don’t understand is that the cause of these issues is the countless hours (8 or more hours per day) they spend plugged-into their smart phones, computers, video games and ipads.  Their brains are literally being re-wired and the result is an inability to cope with “real” life issues.  This lecture will cover all of this and will include lot’s of real cases I’ve dealt with.  Please spread the word.

Email me at tom@tomkersting.com and I will send you the flyer for this important lecture.

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Fox & Friends interview

NJ BB-gun lawFox    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38_r8Vv2Tgw

 

Did you have a BB gun when you were a kid?

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Can Dinner Save My Family

safe_imageHere is a quick promo for my new TV pilot that airs on The Food Network this Saturday at 3:00 and Sunday at 5:30.

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